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Optimal sampling strategies in the coupon collectors problem with unknown population size


Annals of Operations Research


Management Science and Operations

Publishing details

Annals of Operations Research 2015 Vol 233:1 p 77-99

Authors / Editors

Dobson G;Tezcan T

Publication Year



In doing a six-sigma analysis of a process one must first determine the set of possible factors that potentially drive the response of interest. This stage of the the work, known as process mapping, is time consuming. Spending too much time on it wastes investigators and employees time. Yet, spending too little time may result in failing to uncover important factors that drive the process. We model this situation as a general coupon collector’s problem with N distinct coupons, where the exact value of N is not known. Our objective is to devise effective strategies to minimize the total cost incurred due to sampling in addition to the cost of unidentified coupons when the collector stops sampling. We propose a policy based on an asymptotic analysis when N is large and prove that the proposed policy is asymptotically optimal. We also illustrate the effectiveness of this policy with numerical experiments.


Coupon collector’s problem; Asymptotic analysis; Stochastic processes; Optimization

Available on ECCH


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